« PreviousContinue »
believers feel and act differently. They will not neglect the service of God to serve themselves. They mean to keep their hearts in subjection to God, and the world in subjection to their hearts. They maintain a constant warfare between benevolence and selfishness, and always loathe and condemn themselves, whenever their selfishness gains the ascendency over their benevolence. Though Paul delighted in the law of God after the inward man, yet he found a law that when he would do good, evil was present with him; which made him exclaim, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Whatever withdraws their hearts from God and his service, is burdensome and hateful to real christians.
5. If the gospel enlarges the hearts of those who embrace it, then they sincerely and ardently desire to know more and more about it. As new born babes, they desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby. As soon as the understanding of any person is enlightened, and his heart is enlarged, he immediately desires to know more and more about Christ, about God, about the moral state of this world, and the moral state of the invisible and eternal world. And as the heart of every believer enlarges, his desires after greater and greater knowledge of God and divine truths continually increase. Though Paul had as clear and extensive knowledge of the gospel as any man, yet he regretted his remaining ignorance of it, and ardently desired and endeavored to make greater advances in the knowledge of it. And this is true of every true believer. He finds that the knowledge of the gospel extends his views and enlarges his heart towards God, and all his works of creation, providence and grace. It is a dark sign that any person has not rightly understood and embraced the gospel, if he imagines that he has attained to a perfection of knowledge and grace. The more a man has seen and known of this world, the more he desires to see and know of it; and the more those who have embraced the gospel know of it, the more they desire to know of it. As it enlarges their hearts and extends their views, they see more and more to be known of God, of Christ, and of every thing which stands connected with the great work of redemption, which he has undertaken, has carried on, and will continue to carry on, until it is fully and finally accomplished.
6. If the gospel enlarges the hearts of those who embrace it, then it enables them to perform all the duties which it requires, with great pleasure and delight. David says to God, “ I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge
The spirit of the gospel is a spirit of benevolence
towards all beings in the universe, and a spirit of complacence towards all holy, amiable and virtuous beings. And every one knows it is a pleasure to perform any duty towards one to whom he feels benevolently; and every one knows it is pleasure to perform any duty towards one to whom he exercises the love of complacence. The love of benevolence and the love of complacence, which the gospel inspires, prepares all who embrace it to discharge every duty that it requires with pleasure and alacrity. It is a pleasure to those who love God supremely, to obey God universally. Christ loved God, and therefore delighted to do his will. It is a pleasure to those whose hearts are enlarged towards Christ, to obey all his commands. it is a pleasure to all whose hearts are enlarged towards the whole world, to perform every duty which the gospel requires them to perform, towards even the enemies of all righteousness. The spirit of the gospel prepares all, who embrace it, to obey it.
Finally: Let all inquire whether they have ever embraced the gospel. This subject proposes an infallible test. Has it enlarged your hearts towards God, towards Christ, towards the friends of Christ, towards the cause of Christ, and towards the enemies of Christ ? What have you done more than others ? What have you desired more than others? What are you willing to do more than others, who do not pretend to embrace the gospel? Have you been more obedient? or have you been more benevolent?
SERMON X X X I.
PRAYER OF SAINTS FOR THE CONSTANT EXERCISE OF
UNITE my heart to fear thy name. - PSALM lxxxvi. 11.
The name of God, in this, as in many other places of scripture, is expressive of the whole of the divine character and perfections. The fear of his name denotes that fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom, and which comprises all that love, esteem, veneration, homage and obedience, which are due from man to his Creator. David's petition, therefore, appears to be a request that God would prepare his heart to worship and serve him in a sincere and acceptable manner. But if this were his meaning, it may seem strange that he should conceive his prayer in such uncommon and unintelligible terms. For where is the propriety of praying for a united heart? Is not the heart always united ? Is it not something simple, undivided, and incapable of being disunited, and consequently of being united ? ' If he had prayed that God would give him a good heart
, a pure heart, a clean heart, or a wise and understanding heart, his expressions would have been easy and familiar, and his meaning plain and obvious; but when he prays
that God would unite his heart to fear his name, it is not so easy to apprehend the propriety of the phrase, or the meaning of the petition. To set this good man's prayer in a plain and profitable light, I shall endeavor to show,
I. That a good man has but one heart;
I. I am to show that a good man has not two hearts.
Though none may have said, in so many words, that a good man has two hearts, yet many have said what implies it. They have often asserted that a saint has an old heart and a new heart; that he has an old sinful principle and a new gracious principle; that he has an old selfish disposition and a new benevolent disposition; and that he has an old bad taste and a new good taste. All these expressions convey the same idea, and imply that every one who has been born again, or has experienced a saving change, has both a holy and unholy heart, or both a holy and unholy principle, or both a holy and unholy disposition, or both a holy and unholy taste; which amounts to his having both a good and a bad heart at the same time. That this is their real meaning, appears from their deny. ing that a new heart takes away any part of an old heart; or that a new principle takes away any part of an old principle; or that a new disposition takes away any part of an old disposition; or that a new taste takes away any part of an old taste. They suppose that the old heart, or the old principle, or the old disposition, or the old taste, remains entirely the same after, as before regeneration. This supposition plainly and necessarily implies that every real christian, or subject of grace, has two
, hearts. But David was not of this opinion. He did not suppose that he had two hearts. He does not pray that God would unite his old and new heart, or bis old and new principle, or his old and new disposition, or his old and new taste; but his one, only heart. Nor do we find a single instance in the Bible, of any good man's asserting, pretending, or saying anything which implied that he had two hearts. It is no less absurd to say my hearts, than to say my understandings, or my consciences; but there would be no absurdity in this mode of expression, if the old heart remains the same after a new heart is given in regeneration. The truth is, the new heart destroys the old heart; so that a person after regeneration as well as before, has but one heart. Accordingly, God says to his sinful people in Babylon, “ A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” Here the giving of a new heart is represented as the same thing as the taking away of the old heart. And the apostle tells christians that by putting on the new man, they had put off the old man; and ihat by walking in the Spirit, ihey did not walk in the flesh. In a word, the Whole current of scripture represents a good heart as excluding a bad heart; so that a good heart and a bad heart never exist in the same mind, at the same time. It is, therefore, as con
trary to scripture, as to reason and common sense, that a good man ever has two hearts. I now proceed to show,
II. What his one heart is.
As the eye, by which we discover external objects, seldom discovers itself, so the soul, by which we discover other things, seldom turns its attention inward to survey its own powers or faculties. And this is one reason why we find it more difficult to distinguish and describe the properties of the soul, than the properties of the body. We know, however, that the soul has neither length, nor breadth, nor figure, nor visibility, nor any other property of matter; and consequently we know that it is not a material, but a spiritual substance. As the soul is all spirit, so it is all activity. We can form no idea of a dormant, inactive spirit. Separate activity from the soul, and its existence is no longer conceivable. But though the soul be all spirit and activity, yet we are conscious of its distinct powers or properties. We are conscious of having perception, reason, conscience, memory and volition. These are the essential properties of the soul; and in these properties the essence of the soul consists. We can form no conception of the soul as distinct from these properties, or as the foundation of them. The essential properties of the soul constitute its essence, as much as the essential properties of matter constitute the essence of matter. This is true, and is acknowledged to be true by a late celebrated author. Now if perception be distinct from reason, and reason be distinct from conscience, and conscience be distinct from memory, and memory be distinct from volition, then the heart must consist in volition, or free voluntary moral exercise, and in nothing previous to it, or the foundation of it.
We never attach praise or blame to the exercise of perception, or reason, or conscience, or memory; but we do attach praise or blame to the free, voluntary exercise of loving or hating, of choosing or refusing. The heart, therefore, which is the seat of all moral exercises, consists in nothing but moral exercises. It certainly does not consist in perception, or reason, or conscience, or memory; for these are all natural faculties, which are totally destitute of every moral quality to which praise or blame can be attached; but it may and does consist in loving and hating, in choosing and refusing; for these are free, voluntary exercises, which are always right or wrong, and worthy of praise or blame. Neither reason nor scripture affords any ground to suppose that the heart consists in a principle, or disposition, or taste, which is the root, or source, or foundation of all free and voluntary exercises. We never approve or disapprove of any thing in ourselves or others, but free, voluntary exercises; and God requires and forbids nothing but free and vol.